CEBU CITY, Philippines — Not all success stories in basketball happened on the hardcourt. Some were molded behind the limelight, like the inspiring story of former garbage-collector-turned-basketball-team-owner Ricky Verdida of the KCS Mandaue City Computer Specialists.
The 40-year old Verdida of Mandaue City is currently fielding in a team in the inaugural Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup Visayas leg in Alcantara town, southwestern Cebu.
But before owning a basketball team, Verdida has endured abject poverty.
Before becoming a businessman, Verdida was collecting garbage, mopping floors as a janitor, and acting as a PUJ conductor. All these menial jobs he did just to survive.
Abandoned by his parents when he was only seven months old, Verdida’s grandparents took care of him in Medellin town, northern Cebu. He started helping them with their daily needs when he was five years old after they moved to a shanty beside the Butuanon River in Mandaue City.
With almost all the hardships in life being thrown at him, Verdida persevered and worked hard. However, despite his determination to succeed, he got involved in vices and joined gangs.
However, these distractions did not get the best of him.
He kicked all his bad habits due to his passion for basketball which helped him develop a sense of leadership. He then formed the KCS team as a barangay-level squad in 2013.
“Nagdako ko nga gibiyaan ko sa akong parents. Seven months pa lang ko, ako nang lolo ug lola nag buhi nako. Nag sugod nako ug panimpalad pag five years old pa lang, so anad na kaayo ko ug kayod. Nakasuway na ko ug pamasura, nag janitor nako, nag conductor. Pero akong kakugihan ug ang akong pag paningkamot maoy nakatabang nako mahaw-as ko sa kalisud,” said Verdida who now owns two computer shops in Cebu.
Verdida originally formed the team to help develop youngsters in Mandaue City until he met panalay players. ‘Panalay’ is a common lingo in local basketball used by professional cagers who play outside their mother leagues in the provinces during the offseason to earn extra money.
He then elevated his team as a commercial basketball squad and it soon started competing in “panalay” leagues in and outside Cebu.
“Usa sa akong frustrations ang moduwa ug basketball, kuwang jud ko sa height mao di ko maka compete. Sa barangay sige ko ug duwa, pero naka realize ko wala jud koy chance, mao naka huna-huna ko nga mag build ug team way back 2013. Ginagmay lang sa gud pag una,” Verdida revealed.
Eventually, the KCS Specialists was able to stamp its presence in Cebu’s local basketball scene after finishing as runner-up in the Mayor Edgar C. Labella 1st Charter Day Basketball Tournament in 2020. They faced and fought gallantly against the heavily-favored ARQ Builders.
During the height of the pandemic, local basketball organizers in Cebu have already planned the VisMin Cup. One of the team owners who was promptly informed at that time was Verdida.
He then started recruiting players to join his team.
Fast forward to January 2021, Verdida formally introduced the KCS Specialists’ official roster for the VisMin Cup.
It was an achievement he dreamed of since forming the team eight years ago.
Despite being considered a low-budget commercial team, Verdida managed to muster a formidable squad composed of three ex-PBA players in Christopher Exciminiano, Gryanne Mendoza, and Al Francis Tamsi.
He also acquired Cesafi men’s basketball champion coach Mike Reyes of Southwestern University-Phinma Cobras as his team’s head mentor. Reyes also brought along his trusted Cobras in Cesafi MVP Shaquille Imperial, Dyll Roncal and Red Cachuela.
“Daghan challenges pero kahibalo nako ana before pa. Pwerting daghanang struggles, pero ako man jud ni passion. I am a low-budget team owner pero usa sa nakadasig nako nga maningkamot ug maayo para sa akong team kay gusto ko makatabang nilang tanan nga naa sila panginabuhi sa panahon sa pandemic. Kung dato pa kaayo ko, malipay akong mga players ug team kay I know I can give more than enough,” Verdida added.
One of the rare qualities that Verdida has is leadership. Verdida does not miss his team’s single practice game during their training camp for the VisMin Cup.
“Dili kabayran ang kalipay nako, especially if you are a basketball enthusiast, tapos makita nimo you’re bringing the team and makita nimo nagduwa sila. Mura ug niapil ko ug duwa, murag part nako sa line-up. wala jud ko absent sa practice,” said Verdida.
“Hands-on jud ka ani akong team. Gusto nako ipakita sa mga players nga naa ko pirmi mo support nila. Para nako pang stress reliever nako ang makakita sa akong team makaduwa. Malipay nako makakita sa ilang progress.”
Reyes said he decided to join Verdida’s low-budget commercial team because he believes they can compete without signing big names.
“The beauty of the challenge in handling a low-budget commercial team is getting the players we have to exceed everyone’s expectations kahit di ganun ka expensive ang budget,” said Reyes.
Reyes also saw the genuine intention of Verdida to help players struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a team owner, sobrang mabait, down to earth, and very generous. He really wants to help players who are struggling financially.”
One of the players Verdida helped to get back on his feet was Phil Mercader, one of the team’s homegrown players and an ex-UV Green Lancers guard. He said that Verdida picked him up at the lowest point of his life.
“Si sir Ricky (Verdida) ang usa sa best examples nga dili jud ta mo give up sa life. Niabot si sir Ricky sa pinaka lowest point sa akong life. Usa siya sa blessings nga niabot karon. Grabe ka supportive sa basketball and he is always looking for the best sa team and matabangan tanan players,” said Mercader.
Verdida is unfazed despite not getting a corporate sponsor or the support of a local government unit (LGU) unlike other teams in the VisMin Cup. He said he would continue supporting the team until they win a championship.
“Naay time nga kaundangon nako atong walay LGU ni support nako. In fact, naa gusto mopalit sa akong franchise, pero ilisan ang ngan ug uban players, naluoy ko asa padung ang mga players. Mao na naka motivate nako nga dili i give up ang team bahala ug ako ra usa ang nag finance,” said Verdida.
His ultimate goal is to continue helping basketball players and developing his team to be a force to be reckoned with in the country’s tough commercial landscape.
Although he knows it will be an uphill climb to win the VisMin Cup’s Visayas leg title, Verdida believes they have a fighting chance.
“Akong message nila sa team, never stop dreaming and do not quit. Never give up on your dreams. Padayon lang jud ta. Tabangan ta sa Gnoo labi na kung makita niya nga naningkamot ta. Once mo quit ka, it is already a failure.” /rcg
Source: Cebu Daily News Inquirer